AUSTIN (KXAN) – Have you ever felt so tired but had trouble falling asleep once your head hit the pillow?
That’s what a man was going through when he decided to look for a solution.
“I’ve always had a problem sleeping,” Shahab Haghayegh said.
While earning his doctorate at the University of Texas at Austin, Haghayegh and a team developed a technology they believe tricks your body into falling asleep faster.
Haghayegh explained that sleep is possible when your body temperature drops at night.
Thus, the bio-engineers installed a mattress and a pillow to warm and cool the body in specific areas in order to stimulate a feeling of drowsiness.
It starts with the pillow, which warms your neck, which has natural heat sensors and sends a message to your body to cool down.
“So more blood goes from the core to the hands and feet and that blood brings heat from the core to the surface of the hands and feet and then releases it back into the environment,” Haghayegh said.
The mattress helps stimulate blood flow to your hands and feet and helps them dissipate heat from your body and into the environment.
“The neck is like the thermostat, then the hands and feet are like the radiator in the house or like the air conditioning in the house,” Haghayegh explained.
He said that all temperatures in the system are lower than your body temperature, but the mattress is coldest in the center of your core and warms around the edges.
Researchers have published a study on the sleep system in the Journal of Sleep Research. Two versions of the mattress have been documented – one that uses water and another that uses air to alter core body temperature.
The mattresses were evaluated with 11 subjects, UT said in a press release. They were asked to go to bed two hours earlier than usual, using the mattress functions only on certain nights.
The study found that the heating and cooling of the mattress system helped them fall asleep about 58% faster than on nights when they didn’t use it. UT said sleep quality also improved when using warming and cooling settings.
Now they want to test it on more people, especially those who have been diagnosed with sleep disorders.
They also want to further test another benefit they discovered on those who have used the mattress system.
“When we used this mattress, we saw that…subjects had lower blood pressure during their sleep time. And that’s because the vessels in the hands and feet were open,” Haghayegh said.
He said low blood pressure means a lower risk of cardiovascular and kidney disease.
They are hoping for more funding to continue these studies, he said.
The research team also has a patent for the mattress and pillows and is looking to partner with mattress manufacturers to release it to the public.
Haghayegh said the prototype is ready to scale and once they partner with a company, they can get the system in stores within a year.
He said the benefits are tremendous, for so many people.
“The quality of sleep and the performance of children in school, on the performance of athletes in the different sports matches and games. It is also associated with stress, depression, ”he said. “It can make a big difference when you sleep better.”